Once Kelle Lalier takes aim, she rarely misses her mark.
The Massapequa shortstop has a laserlike focus at the plate that she says has been refined by spending four years on the rifle team.
“In rifle, you are trying to stay completely still,” said Lalier, a senior who’s a captain on both the softball and rifle teams. “You have to be calm and control your body. It’s complete mental focus. So that has really helped me at the plate in softball.”
That showed in April during a “What will she do next?!” type of stretch. It began when Lalier, Newsday’s Athlete of the Week, went 3-for-4 with a home run in a 9-1 win over Plainview JFK to ignite a streak in which she homered in four straight games.
With Massapequa trailing by a run and down to its final out, Lalier crushed a two-run home run to lift the Chiefs to a 5-4 victory over Calhoun. In the following game, she hit for the cycle, including a grand slam, in a 14-5 win against Oceanside. Next game, after Darby Pandolfo hit a tying home run in the sixth, Lalier hit the go-ahead homer to give Massapequa a 3-2 win over top-ranked and previously unbeaten MacArthur.
“I was very locked in and I wasn’t thinking about anything else,” she said of her approach at the plate. “It helped having a game every single day. There were no breaks for doubting yourself. You just keep going.”
And she has kept going. Lalier is hitting .500 with a .935 slugging percentage and 19 RBIs this season while helping the Chiefs compete for the Conference AA-I title. She has showed tremendous range to her right at short, getting to ground balls that, off the bat, seemed unreachable.
“As much as she has done offensively for us to win games,” Massapequa coach Bret Malone said, “she has probably done even more defensively.”
Her focus again comes into play in the field as she reads the ball off the bat, analyzes where it might end up, and uses her quick first step to get there in time.
“I’ve managed to get to a lot of balls that it didn’t seem like I’d be able to get to,” she said. “I try not to think about anything and just react to the ball.”
Doesn’t matter if Lalier is trying to field a grounder hit to the hole, or line a softball up the middle, or shoot a bull’s-eye 10 meters away, she hits her target.
“She’s not just a jack of all trades,” Malone said. “She masters a lot of the things she does.”